Eddyline Welding owner Mike DeHoff, and employees Colin Topper and Paige Stuart, gathered around a completed raft frame ready to be shipped to California. [Photo by Eric Trenbeath / Moab Sun News]

At Eddyline Welding, owner Mike DeHoff says that he isn’t so much inspired by the craft, as he is about making a better craft. And with his crew Colin Topper and Paige Stuart, he has made a full-time occupation out of fabricating anything river related that can be cut, bent and welded out of aluminum.

But don’t ask him to weld much else.

“I think it’s important to keep focused,” DeHoff said. “We make river stuff.”

DeHoff, who has spent more than 25 years working as a river guide, an Outward Bound instructor turned director, and jet boat driver for Tex’s Riverways, said he is always looking for ways to enhance what he thinks is one of life’s finest experiences.

“I’m such a believer that one of the best ways to see the world is by floating through it on a river,” he said.

In addition to being a full-service river fabrication center, Eddyline Welding at 420 Kane Creek Blvd. has also become an occasional gathering place for the river community. You are just as likely to find DeHoff, Topper and Stuart there as you are local river guides and boating Moab legends such as Bego Gerhart or Ken Sleight.

Adding to the river mix, adjoining shop space is occupied by Solgear, an industrial sewing shop that makes river-related items, from mesh duffel bags to rescue equipment. A third space is occupied by Moab Rafting.

“It’s cool how you can bounce from one place to the next,” veteran OARS guide Lars Haarr said. “It’s a place guides can hang out that’s not a bar.”

Stuart, who has been in Moab since 2011 working with runners, mountain bikers and in the nonprofit world, said exposure to the river community is part of the appeal in working for Eddyline.

“It’s definitely made me more psyched to get on the river,” she said.

Stuart learned to weld at a Women in the Trades workshop in Portland, Oregon, in 2014. She initially went to learn to be a bike mechanic before she took to welding.

“It’s really a neat craft to practice,” she said. “It’s a skill you definitely have to keep building on. It pushes you to new limits.”

Topper, who is also a Grand Canyon river guide, said that Eddyline is a perfect fit for the Moab boating scene.

“I think the full-service nature of this industry and these products are a great benefit for local outfitters and private boaters alike,” Topper said. “It’s also very consistent with the Moab lifestyle.”

Topper said that Eddyline was developing a name from coast to coast and that it has shipped products from California to Ohio, and even to Antarctica.

DeHoff started out by fabricating custom raft frames and dry boxes as something to do in the off-season while working for Tex’s Riverways. He credits his good friend Steve “T-Berry” Young, a veteran river guide himself and a longtime Canyonlands National Park river ranger, with showing him the ropes.

“It was really T-Berry who had the idea of getting a raft-building frame business off the ground,” DeHoff said. “T-Berry, and Ken DeVore before him.”

Eddyline has since grown from making raft frames and accessories to becoming a U.S. Coast Guard-approved boat builder.

“That all started with John Williams from NAVTEC,” DeHoff said. “He came and asked us to replicate the hull for one of his sport boats.”

A sport boat is like an inflatable Zodiac used by Jacques Cousteau and Navy SEALs. But sport boats have a rigid planing hull, and were developed in Moab for running the fierce rapids of Cataract Canyon back in the early 1990s.

DeHoff said the project really got his wheels turning and that they incorporated the Computer Aided Design (CAD) skills of Moab Regional Hospital MRI technician Matt Hoppensteadt. DeHoff said he also sought advice from anyone he knew who had driven a sport boat.

“That’s what’s so cool about Moab, the collective river running experience,” he said.

The sport boat hull led to the next big project, an aluminum whitewater dory.

OARS manager Seth Davis was in having a frame built for his personal raft when he saw the sport boat hull.

“I planted the seed with Mike,” Davis said. “If you can build one of those, how about a dory?”

OARS owns Grand Canyon Dories and also runs the boats on the Green and Colorado rivers in Utah. Davis said that he had a lot of confidence in DeHoff and that alone was enough to persuade OARS owners Tyler and Clavey Wendt to come out from headquarters in Angels Camp, California, to pay a visit.

“Dories are the rowboat of choice because of how they handle,” Davis said. “They are also visually very sexy.”

The first step for Eddyline’s team members was to develop a prototype, and they again enlisted the CAD skills of Hoppensteadt. They studied different boats and took measurements, and also talked to everyone they knew who had ever rowed a dory.

“I absolutely fell in love with the process,” Topper said. “Not only building the boat, but seeing all the characters come out of the woodwork who were so passionate about it.”

Eddyline produced its first Dory, the Primrose, in early spring and Topper was so taken by it that he took it for his own. Then it built two more boats side by side for OARS in the span of two months. It documented construction in time-lapse photography that can be viewed on its website.

Haarr said the boats “handle fantastically” in big whitewater and that they literally slice through the waves. He added that working with DeHoff was great.

“It was really cool having some say in how the boats turned out,” Haarr said. “And the craftsmanship is excellent. His welds are beautiful and you can tell he puts a lot of thought into everything he makes.”

DeHoff again cites his love for the river experience as his prime inspiration, and he credits his staff for all the fine work.

“It’s the people that work here that make a big difference,” he said.

What: Eddyline Welding

When: Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays by appointment

Where: 420 Kane Creek Blvd.

Information: www.eddylinewelding.com

I’m such a believer that one of the best ways to see the world is by floating through it on a river.